Tuesday, 17 January 2012

What The Wind Did

2 nights on the Isle of May in January isn't the best offer I have ever had but seeing as there has been a bit of wind recently I thought I would tag on to the seabird researchers trip to look at wintering shags, to see what the damage was. For once the weather was with us and a quiet weather window opened up so Mark from CEH, Hannah, who's PhD has lead her to look for shags up and down the East Coast and myself headed off to the island each wearing a wardrobe of clothes. With us was Maggie and Paul from the Seabird Centre who were daytripping to try to fix the webcam link from the May. As we approached all the usual landmarkers could be seen intact but as we ran down the east side I noticed a slew of splintered wood down the cliffs near the Lowlight. Following the trail up the cliffs I realised that the hide used for close study of the puffins had disappeared. Ooops.
Coming into the harbour the first thing to notice was the lack of seals compared to our last visit in December.
The whole island has been blasted brown.

Th Arnot Trap flattened

The mousehouse a bit battered.

How we found the puffin hide.

Hannah bringing the bits of hide up the cliffs.

What the hide looked like once the wind had finished with it.

The lochan from the engine room

Home for a couple of nights.
We shouldered bags and headed off to the Lowlight where we were staying. The whole island had a very quiet, blasted feel, most of the vegetation was scorched brown and gulls were the only obvious inhabitants. The first thing was to help Paul and Maggie move the satellite dish back into position from where the wind had twisted it out of alignment. Once it was up and running they headed back to the boat and went back to Anstruther leaving the 3 of us to have a longer look around the island to check for damage and make ourselves at home in the Lowlight. The damage actually wasn't too bad. The puffin hide that had stood for the last 30 years was the main problem. The other hides that were at the top of the cliff tops and seemingly in the full force of the wind were all fine. The purple shed hide at the south end was just blown on its side but not damaged at all. The heliogoland traps used by the bird observatory are also in a pretty poor state and the railings on the Visitor Centre ramp had been flattened but the buildings themselves were all sound. The Beacon looked a bit tattier, a few slates blown off the Lowlight and the outhouse door was blown off its hinges (despite accusations this was done by the storm rather than the occupants).  By the time dusk came the wind was picking up yet again and Mark and Hannah were at different ends of the island trying to read the ring numbers of shags coming onto the island to roost. Blasted, bleak and empty the island had a different sort of magic to the summer.

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